Hop in Strathspey...

Trans Vector Technologies, Inc

Message 5744 · 28 Nov 1996 21:24:37 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Peter Hastings wrote:

>As a beginner I was taught (mid
>70s) that there was definitely NOT a hop in Strathspey travelling. As the
>travelling foot passed through, the foot that was bearing the weight was
>fully extended but not off the ground.

and Sylvia Miscoe replied:

>I, an old time dancer, was always taught that one's foot came off the gound
>in the strathspey travelling step.

and now Oberdan puts in his 2p:

I began learning SCD just a couple of years before Peter in the early 70s.
However, my learning experience was similar to Sylvia Miscoe's--i.e. the
hop has always been there. I do remember a change in emphasis where the
word "Lift" was used to indicate a smooth or lilting hop so the Strathspey
does not have a bouncy character. I also remember a change in emphasis on
the knee turnout for the leg being pulled through--i.e. there is a definite
turn-out but it is not exaggerated.

Personally, I think that the hop gives flow to the pull through (it feels
more like dancing, while no hop feels to me like walking) and it is good
preparation for the compression and urge that begin the next step. However,
I will admit to leaving out the hop when I am very tired or the dance space
is very cramped.

Rather than leave it at that, I have pulled out all the versions of the
"Manual" that I have. They only go back as far as 1968 (sorry folks, these
are not for sale!):

1. 1968 (reprinted 1973): Introducing Scottish Country Dancing. by J.C.Milligan
2. 1976: Won't You Join the Dance? by J.C. Milligan
3. 1982 revised: Won't You Join the Dance? by J.C. Milligan
4. 1985 revised: Won't You Join the Dance? (after Miss Milligan died, I think.)
5. 1992 The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing. various contributors.

The texts describing the travelling Strathspey step for all 3 revisions of
WJD (numbers 2,3, & 4 above) are identical. So I have only 3 distinct
variants of the words. All versions describe a "hop" on the supporting leg
during the pull-through on beat 4. WJD calls it a "soft hop" and emphasises
"Do not allow the dancers to imagine that this means no hop; there is a
very definite hop although it is low and smooth." Not much ambiguity there!

With regard to turnout of the leg being pulled through:

WJD says "(4) the left foot, which is extended behond on the toe, is
brought through slowly, knee well turned out." and later on, "The knee must
be well turned out". I distinctly remember some of my teachers asking us to
have the sole of the foot facing the ankle of the supporting leg as it
passed during the pull-through to achieve a strong turn out. I also
distinctly remember in later years teachers explicitly telling us NOT to do
that because it over-exaggerated the turn-out.

Today the Manual says "4. With the knee turned out but not exaggerated, the
rear foot is pulled slowly through..." which tells us explicitly not to
exaggerate the turnout.

The real surprise I found, however, is that today's Manual appears to
describe the same step that is described in "Introducing SCD" from 1968!
Since I expect most of you do not have access to that book, I excerpt here
a paragraph which I find very telling...

>From "Introducing Scottish Country Dancing" 1968 (reprinted 1973), page 19:

"In bringing through the foot, it is essential that the heel is kept in and
the foot so turned out that the laces of the shoes are seen from the side.
It is unnecessary and exaggerated to insist that the foot should be so
turned out that the sole of the shoe should brush the angle of the carrying
foot as it passes. The foot must be turned out, but not so much as this.
Men find the stretch of the foot behind difficult as many suffer from stiff
ankles, and it helps if the teacher says, "I want to see the sole of your
shoe at the back as you draw the foot through." The practice of keeping the
toe on the ground all the time helps with foot extension and suppleness of
ankles."

Clearly WJD told us that the knee should be well-turned out, but it is
missing the warning not to exaggerate the turnout. Note that WJD does NOT
say that the turnout should be exaggerated. But guess what? We went through
a phase where some of us were trying to exaggerate the turnout! Thankfully,
someone in a high place (I do not know who) made a point of emphasizing
that the turnout not be exaggerated. Now the Manual is explicit.

So as I understand it, for nearly 30 years (since 1968 at least) the
RSCDS's version of the travelling Strathspey has not changed. The words
describing it have changed and as a consequence, some unfortunate omissions
have permitted over-stylized versions of the step to appear.

Cheers, Oberdan Otto.

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